eGift cards a last-minute gift option, but watch out for scammers

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - If you're still looking for a last-minute gift for loved ones this holiday, you might choose an instant gift: an eGift card. These can be a convenient way to load cash onto a card and either email it or print out the coupon for redeeming, and still make it to your Christmas or holiday party with a gift someone will want to use.

But there are Grinches waiting to profit from your generosity.

Elizabeth Garcia, President of the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama, told us how you can be safe purchasing eGift cards this holiday.

First, she recommends sticking to known websites or retailers to buy the virtual cards.

"Make sure you go to well-trusted websites, websites you have bookmarked," she said. "As with a regular gift card, I would purchase only from established vendors. Established credit card companies who may offer those to redeem membership rewards points, get them from department stores or online marketplaces."

And don't fall for any tricks.

"Don't simply respond to a pop-up:  'Free gift card!' or 'free e-certificate here,'" she said, "because you don't know who is on the other side of that pop-up and you'll be giving them information. Most likely, you'll be giving them payment information. You don't want to be giving that to the wrong person."

It could be a phishing scam.

You may also be vulnerable if you're buying these gifts on public WiFi, such as at an airport on your way to visit family.

"Airport WiFi is one of the worst places to do any kind of transactions," she said, "whether it's buying gifts for Christmas or looking up your bank accounts."

And securing your own personal networks is a good idea in general, she recommended.

"Probably one of the basics of being secure, and securing your privacy, anything that would be on your network, is to make sure your network is properly secure using a proper password. Not the default password," she said.

And as always, check to see if websites are secure. You can do that by searching for the "Secure" lock symbol next to the "https" at the beginning of the web address.

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